Barry North

Aunt Marie


for Marie Babin (1911-2008)


You call to mind

the shadows of stately oaks

sweeping across burnished floors;

the silver tones                                                                                               

of church bells on Sunday morning;

small towns and full moons                                                                                       

on cool, clear nights.


The first time I touched your hand

I lingered on pure silk.

And in your eyes,

I could see the elegance of a bygone era:

true gentlemen and real southern ladies;                    

carriages on cobblestone streets;

the tinkling of tear-drop chandeliers and champagne glasses;

the strains of a Strauss waltz;                                                                                    

debutantes slowly descending winding stairs.


Perhaps one day, in my back yard,

I will plant a tree  

in your honor,

surely, a maple,                                                                                              

for the way it quietly stands apart,

like you,

in the middle of a crowd;                                                                   

for its mottled bark,

like your skin,                                                                                                                                   aging gracefully;

for its translucent leaf,

as thin as your face                                                                                                                                in the light of the sun;

but, mostly,

for the pure, sweet syrup,

like a taste of its own beauty,

hidden in the sap,   

as inaccessible to me as the old south,

which, in my little neck of the woods,

was finally vanquished and laid to rest

in two thousand and eight.

Barry W. North is a sixty-eight-year-old retired refrigeration mechanic. Since his retirement in 2007, he has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, won the 2010 A. E. Coppard Prize for Fiction, and, more recently, won Honorable Mention in the 2011 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paterson Literary Review, Slipstream, and others. His published books are Along the Highway and Terminally Human. For more information visit his website at



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